Been Around the World to End Up Right Back Where I Started

It seems odd that with my new job—which comes with new a new collection of duties and responsibilities—finding time to collect my words and thoughts in a digital recreational composition location (see: “blog”) would be a thing.

How’d I get here, you ask? Let’s see if I can track my course from when I started this little “digital recreation composition location.”

When this site was born, it was little more than a simple WordPress blog. It was simply a place for me to put some words together and to present pieces as sort of a public journal “slash” creative outlet. I believe the first thing I wrote was merely an introduction to what was then labeled “Chapmanesque” followed by an observation of my life as a teacher.

I used my desk as the metaphor for where I was nearly five years ago. Actually, that post was purloined from a blog I previously maintained but, for some reason, opted into creating a new one. The Desk entry was written the previous year. I had just turned 30. I was in the middle of year six in my teaching career, and I was drawing parallels from when I was a student and my life as a teacher. The dividing line of “personal life” and “professional life” was blurred when it came to that crop of kids I had. (They’re real adults now—some with kids, some meandering through life, some already military combat veterans, some starting out in their own teaching careers).

This site morphed into a place where I could not only write but I could take some pictures, play around with photographic angles, and maybe put some written thoughts out about what those images provoke in my mind. I had one post that was about some bees and a redbud tree outside my house. We’ve since moved, but I still think about that place and that moment, in fact, every time I see a redbud tree bright with pink flowers in the midst of a sea of skeleton trees on a late January day.

There’s a post about the time I had the chance to drive a group of students on a field trip to Medgar Evers’ house. With the political climate as it is, I’ve gone back to read what I wrote close to five years ago. We’ve grown, yes, but we have a long way to go still.

Of course I have the entry addressed to the Class of 2016, but—let’s face it—those words are gold for any graduating class. There’s the post about the greatest high school football team I’ve ever seen in my life. Funny thing about that team is I’m technically one of their former coaches. A championship is more than just winning more games than everyone else. With one of those players now in the NFL and so many others fighting for their chance of greatness, I’ve wondered if I’ll ever get to witness so intimately a group of guys who have skin in the game (if you will) in more than just a football.

I’ve got my post I share annually (actually, around this time, come to think of it) full of advice to college freshmen. I wonder how much of that advice is relevant during this COVID-19 semester? Still, there’s plenty of truth in that post that can, and will, go beyond a freshman learning how to navigate his or her life without the typical authoritarian figures dictating each step. I sometimes wonder how much of that I need to reevaluate in my own life too.

I used the site for a while as a landing page for my podcasting. It was the one and only home of Hairpin Media. Those were some good conversations with a fantastic collection of people. From one of my fellow teachers who is your atypical kayaker to a Clinton Alum with his own Ted Talk to a conversation with a lady I work with who was at ground zero during the 1997 Pearl High School shooting. I love podcasting, and I hope one day I’ll be able to make it a priority again.

The most recent post is one I took from a separate venture I tried, focusing on the local social atmosphere. It didn’t take off, but I did learn a good bit from it. Again, I had the chance to drive a group of students on a field trip and used the time to practice some photography.

So, where am I now? I’m back at the beginning. I’ve landed a new job within the district, handling PR and managing the website. It requires all the skills I’ve learned over the past decade, both from my professional life and my various “side gigs.” Whoever thought venturing out into a creative space would one day allow me to use such a random collection of aptitudes?

I’m right back to where I started with this little nugget of a blog. I once worked with a master wordsmith named Billy Watkins who told me not to waste all my words at work. When I heard that at the ripe age of 22, it resonated in possibly the wrong way. I almost took it as, “Don’t give the man your best work. Keep that for yourself.” But, oh, how I was wrong.

I think what Billy was saying was, if word-crafting is my art, then sometimes it doesn’t have to always be professional or high-brow or even organized. It doesn’t have to follow certified order. It can be stream-of-consciousness all while not being pretentious. It’s relaxing.

It’s relaxing in the very way some people lift heavy weight in order to relax.

It’s relaxing in the very way some people pound the pavement day in and day out.

It’s where I can put words on paper where their quality is only measured by me.

That’s where I started almost 25 years ago when I first discovered how beautiful crafting a sentence could be. And though my professional life is anchored to the written word and the snap of a camera, I’m allowed to experience the beauty of it outside of the demand.

I forged that road a long time ago—No sense in stopping now.

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